India: This post is in black and white

The car honked at the small child on the road ahead of us. She looked to be only about two. The driver swerved around her and I winched, my fists clenched on my knees.

“I hate this. I hate this,” I said to myself. I said it out loud.

As our car pulled up on the side of the road, I had this sudden urge to run. It felt white, like a silent panic.

We were all silent. I looked Eden in the eye. I looked at Joy, and Misho, and Carly. I think I was rallying myself, searching for strength in their eyes, knowing they were experiencing the same thing.

This was the day we visited an urban Delhi slum. I feel haunted by what I saw this day. What I walked on. The smell. It was devastating.

I have been trying to write this post for 4 hours; the words come hard and I can’t get it right.

india

Carly and Eden walk up the pile of soft moist rubbish before me

We weaved our way past tiny rooms made from brick and concrete, rubbish was under our feet and piled up above our heads on each roof top. These are the homes of the rag pickers.  Rag Picking in India provides a source of income for the people in this community.  The children sort through rubbish for plastic and metals, which they sell.   I felt like crying — sobbing – as I saw little children crawling around in trash.  The mother in me wanted to gather them up and give them a warm bath.

rag pickers -- new dehli -- india

Sorting metal to sell

Sweet baby

urban dehli slum

Rubbish piled on roofs

I was frozen inside, and I held my backpack close to my chest, willing it to give me comfort. (I found this picture taken my Misho, which shows  how — I’m in the purple skirt — I clung to my backpack like a lifeline).  I felt disappointed in myself then, at my reaction. But  I shook it off because it wasn’t about me.

Children.  I looked at the children running around.  Really looked at them. I looked at their faces.  They smiled and waved.  They held out their hand to me.  To be brutally honest here, I own that I hesitated to respond with my own hand. For a fraction I was tempted to smile it off in an attempt to hide my recoil. But when a hand is offered in joy and love — in honour — how can you not take it?  How can you not respond?  And so, I focused on that beauty and held my hand to every person, to every child who reached for me.

All these beautiful, beautiful children, with big brown eyes, white smiles and excited waves.  Still, looking around, I felt a sense of sadness seeing these children run around on dirt and piles of rubbish, as my own children do on fresh grass at a beautiful park.  There is something wrong with that.

White smiles

Children, beautiful children

Big brown eyes

After the whirl of initial excitement had passed, I met Lajja.   She stood in front of me, as I sat in a plastic chair.  I felt awkward and uncomfortable sitting while she stood.  She looked right at me, and told me her story.  I listen carefully to the foreign sounding words, hearing what she said through the way she said it, feeling it, and then waiting for the translation.  She said World Vision taught her how to to clean and wash; and how to provide basic heath care for the kids.  One of the girls from this community said that before World Vision came, they never had a bath before. Ever. World Vision also helped Lajja understand the importance of sending the children to the open school.  She now trains other women in the community to do the same, and the education ripples like a pebble thrown in water.  But still, change for this community is slow, because there are deep seeded mindsets and complex societal structures that penetrate and carry through the generations. Sustainable change is s-l-o-w. And I was struck in awe with the commitment and patient (oh-so patient) dedication shown by the people who work for positive changes in these communities.

Lajja and her children

I’ll never forget the last words Lajja she said, and how she said it.  I held my camera in my lap and snapped the picture below (hoping it would turn out) as she said it.  She said, “I’m old now, but for my children, there is hope.”

I'm old now, but for my children, there is hope

This post is in black and white, because I am torn and my heart breaks.    This post is in black and white, because colour left me.  The post is in black and white, because it needs to be.

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Read all my posts from India here: Blog for Social Good — India.

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

Latest posts by Kelly - Be A Fun Mum (see all)

Comments

  1. says

    Beautiful, painful post. I can’t even imagine how it feels to actually be there. My heart breaks for you and the children and their parents. Thank you for being strong enough to go there and try to make a difference. This post left me in tears.

  2. says

    This was so moving and I shed tears as I read it. I have no words to say except just to have hope also. Hope in a God who cares and hope in a world filled with people like you and me who can help be apart of bring the hope of change, noticing and caring.
    Well done Kelly. xx

  3. says

    WOW Kel,

    What an amazing and hard post to write. Troy goes to India on a regular basis and says exactly the same thing – very black and white.

    I am so very amazed by you – you are an amazing person

    x

  4. Veronica @ Mixed Gems says

    These words, that you felt were inadequate, have conveyed so much. I’ve been moved to tears. In amidst the sense of despair, your beautiful images have shown the hope that lives in these lives and the fact that we can help via World Vision, even in small ways. Thank you, Kel. xo

  5. says

    Those beautiful, beautiful children are just more beautiful in black and white. Real children, real hope, real stories. Thank you for bringing them into our world through words and pictures. The more we learn their stories and relate to them as beautiful children, the more our hearts will open, we will connect with them and see them as we see our own children, and we will help them through.

  6. says

    This post is in black n white because its the perfect way to share what you are seeing through your eyes, and through the eyes of the other bloggers.
    My heart breaks for those kids, but then there is joy there as well. There is hope – there has to be. It must be. Those sweet children have the most amazing smile – and yet most of them have only that. Thanking you for sharing your journey through India, its good to see the side of India that hardly ever gets shown/talked about. You are making such a huge difference xxx

    • says

      Someone said to me, that in all their travels around the world, it was often the poorest children who had the biggest smiles. Yes, they are so beautiful…and there is always hope. Thank again, as always, for your beautiful support Lisa.

  7. says

    Oh Kelly just catching up with all your posts. You are so brave and describe the experience so well. I want to wrap you up and brush your hair and wash your face and say it will be ok. But that’s the hardest thing isn’t it? Believing that you are making a difference with so much despair. You are. Yes you are.

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